How to avoid getting five university rejections

rejection concept art

A closer look at submitting a well-rounded university application

Nobody wants to get rejected by a university, but can you imagine not getting a single offer from any of the five places you applied to? 

Let's take a look at how to swerve common mistakes that scupper applications from the start – and what to do if you don't get any offers.

1. Not all university courses are the same

Take your time time researching the courses that will suit you best – not all courses are the same, even when they cover the same subject. 

Look through the modules for all three years – does it cover what you want to learn? We’ve got all courses covered over on The Uni Guide, which will help you get started.

Every university will teach its version of a course in a different way, but all the information you need is available online. 

Choose five university courses you’re a good match for, and look at your application from the university’s perspective – they'll be deciding if you can stay committed and manage the workload. 

2. Take time to check and understand the entry requirements

Make sure you know exactly what you’re applying for by checking the entry requirements for each courses.

If a university is asking for exact grades, your predicted grades need to match those requirements – or at least come really close. 

If there's a course where your predicted grades are just one grade below the requirements, you could still consider putting in an application. But if you’re two or more grades away, your application will probably get rejected.

Check for other exam grade requirements as well – some courses might require certain GCSE grades, such as a minimum grade 4 in English or maths.

When looking at university courses it is worth checking whether the university has any contextual admissions schemes that you might be eligible for.  

These schemes use additional information to understand and recognise your potential to succeed at university, and using this insight could provide you with an offer of reduced entry requirements.

Not all universities offer contextual admissions and the eligibility criteria will vary at each institution so doing your research is key!

 - Heather Monsey, outreach manager (post-16 and transition), UEA

You can find out more about contextual admissions in our article.

3. Balancing your application

A well-balanced application doesn’t have all five options as high-risk choices.

You might instead go for one with high entry requirements (a grade above what you're predicted), two or three at medium (matching, or just below your predictions), and one or two ‘low’ (a little below your predictions).

This puts you in a good place to get several offers with a range of entry requirements to aim for. 

That's going to be important when you're picking a firm and insurance choice later on in the year; if you don't have any 'lower' offers then you won't have a back-up choice if things don't go to plan in August.

4. Give your personal statement some zing

This is an important part of your application and it can seem daunting. But you’re effectively just trying to answer the question: "Why do I want to study this subject at university?"

As you're writing your statement, ask yourself whether each sentence is helping to provide that answer.

Try to be original, but steer clear of complex wording and language. If you can make your point using simple, straightforward language then your personal statement will be effective and clear.

Universities often publish guidance (check their websites) on what they want to see in your personal statement as well as subject-specific guidance. The advice might tell you what admissions staff are looking for, and the importance they place on each factor.

5. Look for feedback from your parents and teachers

You don’t need to let your parents or teachers make your university decisions for you. But their advice might provide some helpful perspective.

If a teacher tells you that your application choices are over-ambitious, it’s worth finding out why they think that – you can use that feedback to consider what will be best for you in the long run. 

Parental advice can be tricky sometimes – you might be getting pressured to apply for a particular course or university, but they'll probably have some useful feedback too.

But what happens if, after all, you do end up with five rejections?

So you’ve gone through the whole application process, got a well-balanced application in before the January deadline…and still ended up with five unsuccessful options.

The application system is designed to help: you don’t have to give up on university.

Ucas Extra
Ucas Extra is the official process for those who've not received any university offers, or for those who've declined the offers they have received. You can read a full explanation on The Uni Guide.

In 2024, Ucas Extra runs from 28 February to 4 July for applicants who made five initial choices. You'll be eligible for Extra if:

  • You've used all five of your choices but hold no offers
  • You've changed your mind about your choices, and have declined any offers you received

And if you don't have any offers after 4 July you can go through Clearing.

There will be loads of courses available in Clearing from 5 July until 21 October.

It’s a way for universities to fill the spaces they have left for the new academic year and also for applicants without an offer to find a university place.

Once you've received your results, you'll be able to make an application through Clearing. 

Gap year
Depending on your circumstances, a gap year could be a good option – you'll have time to build a new application that includes your actual exam results rather than predictions. 

About our sponsor

UEA is a UK Top 25 (Complete University Guide 2024) and UK Top 30 (The Times/Sunday Times 2024) university. 

We offer over 200 degree programmes and provide quality academic, social and cultural facilities to over 17,000 students. 

Between the Sportspark and high-tech labs, much-loved music venues and the quieter corners of our (award-winning!) parkland, UEA is a beautiful, vibrant place to live and call home. 

We celebrate diverse voices and backgrounds, and we stand for equal opportunity in higher education. Visit our website to find out more about our contextual admissions programmes.